Chinook salmon are some of the most cherished freshwater fish in the world. These blue-green fish with silvery sides and white bellies are prized by commercial, sport, and subsistence fishermen. Chinook have been known to weigh up to 129 pounds, although they usually weigh around 30 pounds. These fish are anadromous, meaning they migrate to the ocean and return to fresh water to spawn and die. In Idaho, adult salmon generally return to the Snake, Salmon and Clearwater rivers after one to three years at sea. As they journey home, they face many severe, often fatal obstacles such as dams, pollution, and predators.
Habitat: Chinook need freshwater streams and estuaries to survive. They lay their eggs in deeper water where larger gravel is present, which increases oxygen flow in the water. After they have lived in freshwater for 1-3 years, the salmon migrate to the ocean and feed on other fish in rich ocean waters for 1-8 years before they make the arduous journey hundreds of miles back to the very waters where they were born.
Food: Chinook salmon feed on terrestrial and aquatic insects and small crustaceans while young, and then primarily feed on other fish when older.
Facts: Chinook salmon are in trouble. In many states throughout the U.S., their numbers are rapidly dwindling. Scientists are studying their decline and have concluded that there are several factors influencing their declining numbers including dams, climate change, pollution, and loss of habitat. Scientists and public land managers are working to help increase salmon numbers.
Know your fish! If you are an angler, please click here for more information on identifying salmon in Idaho.
Chinook salmon make an arduous journey to spawn.